To me, Hampi (or Hampe as we call it in Kannada) is ‘Poetry in Stone’. It is one of my favourite places on earth. Hampi is truly awe-inspiring. The magnificent boulders that glisten in the late afternoon sun, the mighty Tungabhadra river on whose southern banks this city was built, the architectural wonders that are the temples, monolithic statues, and ancient markets, the palm trees and green fields that contrast with the rocky terrain – all make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Hampi.
Hampi is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, which flourished between the 14th and 16th centuries but the city in itself is quite ancient. Present day Hampi is located in the Indian state of Karnataka (http://www.karnatakatourism.org). It is around 350kms from the state capital of Bengaluru. You can either drive to Hampi from Bengaluru or take the train to Hospet junction (13km from Hampi). We stayed at the Mowgli Guest House (http://mowglihampi.com). We had a wonderful view of the sunset from my cottage. The cottage was reasonably good although the light in the room that I stayed at wasn’t very bright. There are a number of restaurants dotting the lane leading to the guest house serving all kinds of cuisine. Hampi is quite popular with tourists these days and this is reflected in the cuisine on offer. What pained me was a lack of local cuisine in Hampi. There was only one restaurant serving anywhere close to a semblance of local food. If there were others, my brother and I failed to find them.
The best way to get around is to either rent a two-wheeler or hire an auto-rickshaw for the day. If you are good at haggling, you can find a good bargain. We hired an auto-rickshaw. I spent 2 days in Hampi and managed to visit some of my childhood favourites. The monolithic statue of Lakshminarasimha, the Krishna market, the Virupaksha Temple, the Vijaya Vitthala Complex, the Stone Chariot, Purandara Mantapa, Pushkarni (step-well), Mahanavami Dibba, and Hemakuta Hill are among the many attractions. Lest I forget the two Ganesha statues – KadalekaLu Ganesha and SasivekaLu Ganesha. I highly recommend a walk to the top of Hemakuta Hill to witness the sunrise/sunset. It is absolutely stunning. The other sunrise/sunset spot worth hiking to is Matanga Hill. The vistas that greet you during sunrise or sunset are something you’ll remember for a long time. They are also a good way of getting away from the crowds. It also gives one a sense of how magnificent Hampi still is and you can only imagine what it might have been like in its heyday.
But life still goes on in Hampi. People still carry out rituals and ceremonies on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Shepherds graze their sheep and goats in the ancient markets. Boats ferry people across the river and I saw a barber plying his trade in what is possibly one of the most scenic barbershops in the world. If you are thinking of going to India, then put Hampi on your itinerary. You won’t regret it. Here’s a selection of images from my visit – not of the stunning architecture but of the people of Hampi.